Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Hudson Mohawke makes pop music like nothing before


Release date: 15 June 2015
Hudson mohawke lantern
22 June 2015, 09:30 Written by Rory Foster
Hudson Mohawke’s debut album, Butter, has barely aged a day. If anything, it’s an album that over the years has got better and better with each return.

Chaotic, deafening and with the best artwork of 2009, you don’t have to go far past the maximalist, leftfield electronica of “Gluetooth” to find productions that are still unchallenged in their field. But listen to vocal tracks “Joy Fantastic” or “Just Decided” and you’ll hear HudMo’s grapples with making pop that, at this stage, isn’t quite as developed as his instrumentals. Six years later and the story couldn’t be more different. Ross Birchard, the 29 year-old Glaswegian ex-bedroom producer, is now a godfather of trap, international DJ and a producer for Kanye’s G.O.O.D Music. And he’s got a new album out, called Lantern.

Lantern is so far beyond Butter in so many ways that it’s remarkable to have been birthed from the same set of hands. The former, Birchard’s debut Warp LP, was unique but ruffled, brilliant but scatty. Lantern has been crafted with higher expectations behind it. Benji B, Mark Ronson and Zane Lowe helped refine the tracklist. Guest vocalists include Miguel, Jhené Aiko and Antony Hegarty. Its statement is much grander. Some sounds in Butter verge on the comical – the twisted vocal waterfalls in “Acoustic Lady”, the haphazard cymbal splashes in “Rising 5” – it’s a ridiculous album. Lantern is serious, and declares it immediately. Its intro is prepared like the start of a movie scene, and “Very First Breath” throws you straight into Lantern’s pristine, glimmering pop. It still has Birchard’s unique rhythms, his fondness for the sweetest synth lines, but Lantern is not really a follow up to Birchard’s first record – nor is it trying to be.

Rewind five years and Ross was playing a sweltering Glastonbury 2010 afternoon, to about 50 people, in a small tent somewhere I can’t remember. This was a year before the release of the Satin Panthers EP – the first hints of what was to come from TNGHT – but Birchard was playing music that would end up making the tracklist. It was a bizarre experience for such titanic music to be played under a relatively empty tent, but this slow transition from bedroom to dancefloor started the journey to Lantern. Earlier this month Birchard played Field Day to a convulsing mass of fans, before hitting up XOYO. If you’ve been doing this for years, it’s not surprising that you need something different to entertain crowds, as well as yourself.

Lantern isn’t just stratospheric pop songs, but they are the highlights. “Warriors”, “Indian Steps”, “Deepspace” all offer twists on the best of Birchard’s more recent production credits: squeaky clean RnB, hip-hop, electronica is piled into a melting pot.

The instrumentals are a smaller proportion of the album this time around, and have the harder task of navigating so many different territories: “Lil Djembe” is the closest to TNGHT; “Ryderz” is a euro-dance anthem; “Scud Books” is a that’s been radio-ripped for years, and finally sees a cleaned up proper release. It’s the only old song on Lantern, despite Birchard’s considerable back-catalogue of beats.

It’s understandable to want to move further forward after so many years, but sad to know that perhaps a spiritual follow-up to Butter will never come. For those fans who struggled with TNGHT, or Satin Panthers, you may continue to mourn the loss of HudMo’s craziest rhythmic atom-smashing. Nothing hits quite the same spot that “Star Crackout” or “No One Could Ever” did. It's not Butter, it doesn't try to be - and ideally nor should we want it to be. This album sounds so far departed from what's come before partly because it's so long since and because HudMo is a different man from the one I saw bobbing away at Glastonbury many years ago. Lantern is top-tier pop music and bone-shaking instrumentals, for a generation of nostalgia-gorging, trans-genre clubbers, and is a fantastic cornerstone for both LuckyMe and Birchard.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next